Difficulty: Moderate-strenuous. The hike to the summit of Parkman Mountain is about 2 miles round trip, according to the second edition of “Hiking Mount Desert Island,” a pocket guide by Earl D. Brechlin. People often make it into a loop hike after hitting the summit of Parkman Mountain by then traveling to the nearby Bald Peak and descending a trail on the south side of the peak for a hike that is just over 2 miles. The trails are rocky and fairly open to the elements much of the way. There are several steep sections.
How to get there: Drive onto Mount Desert Island on Route 3 (Bar Harbor Road). At the intersection after the causeway, veer right onto Route 198 and drive 4.3 miles; veer left onto Route 198-Route 3 and drive 3.9 miles and turn left into the Parkman Mountain Parking Area, just before the road passes Upper Hadlock Pond (also on the left).
Information: Parkman Mountain rises 941 feet above sea level on the east side of Somes Sound on Mount Desert Island and is one of the many scenic hiking locations of Acadia National Park. From its slopes, hikers can enjoy wide open views of the mountainous island and the ocean beyond.
Starting at the Parking Mountain Parking Area, follow the wide path past an outhouse and into the forest. The path soon meets a carriage road, a wide recreational path used by hikers, bicyclists, horseback riders and skiers. Turn right and walk a short distance on the carriage road until you reach an intersection. Turn left and walk along the carriage road for about 0.25 mile and you’ll see a cedar post sign for the Parkman Mountain Trail on the left.
The trail climbs to cross another carriage road, then heads into an evergreen forest and up the mountain. Painted blue blazes on trees mark the trail, which ascends gradually with a few steep areas. Views open up early on in the hike as the trees become more stunted.
As the terrain opens up, the blue blazes are painted on the bedrock rather than on trees. Therefore, if you’re traveling the trail in the winter, you will likely lose the trail near the top of the mountain because snow will cover the blue blazes on the bedrock. Nevertheless, the first half of the trail makes for a nice short winter hike with stunning views.
About 0.75 mile up the trail, you’ll meet a trail intersection in between Parkman and Bald Peak, according to the “Hiking Mountain Desert Island” pocket guide. If you turn left, you’ll soon reach the summit of Parkman Mountain at 941 feet above sea level. If you turn right, you’ll soon reach the summit of Bald Mountain at 974 feet above sea level.
If you want to visit both peaks and make it a loop hike, go to Parkman Peak first, then Bald Peak. From there, you can descend finish the hike on a trail that travels down the south side of the mountain. The trail ends at a carriage road, where you’ll turn right to hike along the carriage road back to Parkman Mountain Parking Area.
An interesting fact: Parkman Mountain used to be called Little Brown Mountain. George Dorr, the park’s first superintendent, renamed it Parkman Mountain in the early 1900s. In fact, he introduced new names to several peaks on the island in an effort to draw attention to historical figures,
according to “Pathmakers: cultural landscape report for the historic hiking trail system of Mount Desert Island” by the National Park Services. Parkman Mountain is named after Francis Parkman (1823-1893), famous historian and author.
Dogs are permitted on this hike if kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet at all times. Pet owners are responsible for removing all pet waste from campgrounds, picnic areas, parking lots, roads and other developed areas. While the trails up Parkman Mountain are OK for dogs, some trails in Acadia are not recommended to pets and some trails are closed to pets altogether. To see this list, visit www.nps.gov/acad/planyourvisit/pets.htm.
All visitors to Acadia National Park are required to pay an entrance fee upon entry May through October. Passes vary in price. Private vehicles are $20 for 7 days, but motorcycles, bikes and pedestrians are $5 for 7 days. Group passes and annual passe are also available.
To learn more about the park, including places where you can purchase a park pass, visit nps.gov/acad/planyourvisit/index.htm.
Personal note: The forecast called for sun on Friday, so I planned to travel to Acadia National Park and find a nice mountain snowshoe. On a scrap piece of paper, I jotted down the directions to Bernard Mountain on the western side of Mount Desert Island. I chose Bernard Mountain because multiple guidebooks described it as a heavily forested mountain, which sounded great for snowshoeing. In forests, trail markers are typically on trees, meaning their usually visible year round.
Both trailheads for Bernard Mountain are off Western Mountain Road, which isn’t plowed during the winter. Of course, I didn’t know that until I actually drove there and saw it for myself. Parked in front of a snowbank, with my dog Oreo whining in the passenger seat, I flipped through the guidebook looking for another mountain to snowshoe.
I settled on Parkman Mountain, a shorter mountain in Acadia with a trailhead on a major road. You can imagine my relief when I arrived at the plowed Parkman
Mountain Parking Area and saw several other vehicles parked and people milling about carrying cross-country skis and snowshoes. We’d found our adventure for the day.
By the tracks, it appeared that most people were skiing and snowshoeing on the extensive network of carriage roads that circle the mountain and visit the shore of nearby Upper Hadlock Pond, and farther off, Jordan Pond and Eagle Lake. However, when we reached the half-buried sign that marks Parkman Mountain Trail, it was evident that snowshoers had been on the trail recently. Encouraged by their tracks, we followed them up the mountain.
I struggled photographing and filming this particular snowshoe because Oreo was so full of energy that he was pulling on his leash constantly. At one point, when I knelt in the snow to photograph the trail sign half buried in snow, Oreo decided to run downhill. I stubbornly refused to let go of his leash, toppled over backwards and skidded downhill on my back before I regained control. I was covered in snow and quite frustrated. Oreo looked back at me, I’d like to think apologetically. Fortunately, from that point on, he behaved himself — sort of.
Early in the hike, we were rewarded with stunning views of Somes Sound and Bald Peak, and it’s a good thing, because about halfway up the trail, the snowshoe tracks we had been following disappeared. On the open granite ridge, I had no idea which way to go.
You see, blue blazes and cairns (rock piles) mark Acadia trails. In the forest, those blue blazes are usually on trees. But on open ridges, where trees become stunted and scarce, the paint marks are placed on the bedrock or cairns are used to mark the trail. In the winter, these trail markers become covered in snow. That’s why, when choosing a snowshoe spot, it’s good to pick mountains that are mostly forested (unless you plan on using a GPS and forging your own path).
The day was sunny without a puff of wind, so I decided to break trail and explore the open terrain of the mountain a bit longer before backtracking down the mountain. I didn’t wander far in the snowdrifts, which reached my waist in some spots. Oreo walked close behind me, taking care not to step on my snowshoe tails.
I plowed through the snow uphill to an angular boulder surrounded by stunted trees. At the boulder was a great view of Somes Sound and the eastern slope of the mountain, but it was evident that we weren’t on trail, so I backtracked and tried another direction. I soon grew tired of wrestling snowdrifts. It didn’t seem safe to me, so I turned back.
Partway down, I stepped off trail and packed down a spot in the sun for Oreo and I to have a snack of granola bars and dog jerky. We played for a while, then headed back to the parking area. Before driving home, we visited the marina of Northeast Harbor and Oreo warmed up in the car while I photographed at least 10 loons fishing in the harbor, as well as four eiders (two bright males and two females), a horned grebe, a bufflehead, a male red-breasted merganser, and a bunch of mallards.